TORONTO/TOKYO – When the people of Tomioka were finally allowed short visits back to their homes after the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, one of the first things they did was to prune the mountain town's languishing cherry trees. After years of intermittent tending, the century-old trees, just 10 kilometers from the destroyed nuclear plant, returned to full glory. Kiyonori Watanabe, who has lived nearby his entire life, stops his car in front of a metal barricade and pulls up a photo on his phone: clouds of delicate, pink sakura blossoms. This is as far as he can go. Nine years after the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, the street lined by the trees is still uninhabitable. Other neighborhoods deemed safe now have only a fraction of their former population. "Some elderly people have returned home, but their children and grandchildren have refused to do so because of radiation concerns," says Watanabe, who oversees renewable energy in the region as director of Fukushima Electric Power Co. Ltd. Japan is preparing for Tokyo 2020 with a pledge to host the first games powered entirely with renewable energy, and it would like nothing more than to put the legacy of the nuclear disaster behind it.
Toshiba Corp. President Satoshi Tsunakawa leaves after a press conference at the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Tsunakawa said the move to push Westinghouse into Chapter 11 was aimed at "shutting out risks from the overseas nuclear business." It's tough to blame Toshiba for letting Westinghouse fail. The subsidiary was an intractable mess, facing $6 billion in cost overruns on four half-built nuclear power plants in South Carolina and Georgia. Still, Tom Fanning, the CEO of Southern Company, told reporters yesterday that Toshiba had a "moral commitment" not to walk away from the unfinished reactors at the Vogtle Plant.
OSLO/MELBOURNE/TOKYO – Norway and Australia are racing each other to show they can supply Japan with hydrogen, hoping to fulfill its ambition to become the first nation significantly fueled by the superclean energy source. While Australia has planned to derive liquid hydrogen from brown coal for some time, Norway could steal a march if a pilot project producing the fuel using renewable energy -- a climate-friendly method more in keeping with Japan's aims -- is cheaper. The government is betting heavily on the country becoming a "hydrogen society" despite the high costs and technical difficulties that have generally slowed its adoption as a carbon-free fuel. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing his vision of vehicles, houses and power stations using hydrogen to end the energy crisis that has plagued the nation since the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, which led to a dramatic drop in electricity production from its nuclear plants. The country's annual hydrogen and fuel cell market is forecast to hit ¥1 trillion ($9 billion) in 2030 and ¥8 trillion in 2050, according to the industry ministry.
Japan will shift further toward renewable energy and cut dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power, according to the country's energy plan approved Tuesday by the Cabinet. Ahead of the automatic July renewal of the U.S.-Japan agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the plan for a medium- to long-term energy policy also mentioned that Japan will work to reduce its plutonium stockpile for the first time. The increased focus on renewables under the 2015 Paris climate accord underscores Japan's daunting challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically in the years ahead. The government, which updates the energy plan roughly every three years, kept its goals the same for its mix of energy sources in fiscal 2030 but did not give specific numbers for fiscal 2050 the year when it has to clear a certain goal in fighting global warming. Toward 2030, the government aims to have renewables account for 22 to 24 percent, fossil fuels 56 percent and nuclear power 20 to 22 percent in the country's electricity generation, the energy plan showed.
Toshiba Corp. is under investigation by the United States over allegations that it hid 1.3 billion ( 146 billion) in losses at its nuclear power operations, according to two people familiar with the matter. The probes, they said, follow one by Japan's securities regulator, which found that Toshiba falsified financial statements and documents involving its issuance of corporate bonds. U.S. authorities are scrutinizing allegations made in an internal review published last year by the Tokyo-based company, the two people said. The report, a 334-page version of which was published in English on Toshiba's website in December, said management was complicit in padding profits for almost seven years. It led to the resignations of top officials, including Hisao Tanaka, Toshiba' president and chief executive officer.